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Integrating Sustainable Development into the Curriculum: Enacting “Scalar Shifting” in ESD Competencies

Integrating Sustainable Development into the Curriculum

ISBN: 978-1-78769-942-7, eISBN: 978-1-78769-941-0

Publication date: 18 March 2020


There is an increasing interest in integrating sustainable development into higher education curricula to increase young graduates’ agency in addressing sustainable development goals (SDGs). Education for sustainable development (ESD) involves raising awareness of opportunities to create local solutions, a willingness or desire to construct those solutions, and the organizational skills to implement these solutions in context. As these courses are integrated into academic curricula, students must learn practical-ends driven skills in ways compatible with existing academic standards frameworks oriented toward theoretical understanding. These can lead to very different pedagogical orientations (theoretical and practical), one reason that could explain the relatively limited uptake of ESD within higher education to date. The authors develop a model by which a single educational experience could help to bridge between these two orientations. The authors use a single study of an example of student volunteer projects where students spend 2–4 months working on a knowledge transfer project to the global south, oriented toward solving the SDGs. The authors reflect on tensions, problems, and solutions in producing graduates oriented to tackling urgent contemporary societal issues, while gaining valuable personal development experience.




We would like to thank the four cohorts (at the time of writing) of the Crossing Borders module who have provided the basis for the insights reported in this chapter. We also would like to thank the Student Mobility Office for providing us with data regarding student numbers and bursary funding provided for placements. Many thanks are also due to two anonymous reviewers for their comments on a first draft of the text. All errors and omissions remain the responsibility of the authors.


Benneworth, P., Kolster, R., Stienstra, M., Garcia, L.F. and Jongbloed, B. (2020), "Integrating Sustainable Development into the Curriculum: Enacting “Scalar Shifting” in ESD Competencies", Sengupta, E., Blessinger, P. and Yamin, T.S. (Ed.) Integrating Sustainable Development into the Curriculum (Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning, Vol. 18), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 145-161.



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